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According to IATA.org, Jetstar Airline has the IATA code "JQ".

Singapore airline is SQ.

Neither of them have the letter "Q" in their name, so what does it stand for?

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    Much like in the bad ol' days of the DOS operating system where files had to conform to the 8.3 file name space and you ended up with files named CBGBOMFU.mp3, you have to make do with the character count you're given.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 12:31
  • Kind of like airport codes in Canada where we ended up with YYZ for Toronto and YUL for Montreal. TOR is some minor municipal airport in Wyoming that mostly caters to single-engine aircraft. Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 15:39

3 Answers 3

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Airline codes don't have any specific meaning as such - they are simply 2 letters (or sometimes one letter and one number) selected by the airline itself, with the requirement that they are unique.

We could only guess as to why Jetstar selected "JQ" as their code, however at the time they were being founded the more obvious code "JE" was already in use (by "Manx Airlines", and then subsequently by South Africa's "Mango" and now seemingly Germany's "Jettainer"). Similarly, "JS" is assigned to North Korea's Air Koryo.

The Q in JQ was likely selected as a reference to Jetstar's parent company, Qantas, who also have a Q in their IATA code, "QF" (which in itself stands for "Qantas Flight" - or at least so legend says!)

Singapore Airlines was in a similar situation, with the more obviously codes of "SI" and "SA" already being assigned (to Sierra Pacific Airlines in the US and South African Airlines, respectively). Rumor has it that "SQ" was selected as a reference to "Superior Quality", however I have never actually seen anything to confirm that.

With only 2 letter codes and countless global airlines it's not surprising that codes end up not representing the name of the airline - with many newer airline codes seemingly bearing no resemblance to the airlines name, unlike the two you've mentioned which at least have one letter that matches!

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    If Quantas chose between 'QF' and 'FQ' they seem to have chosen wisely...
    – WBT
    Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 1:18
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    @WBT Based on my experience, 'FQ' would have been a perfect code for Jetstar
    – Doc
    Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 2:55
  • what happens when there are 577 airlines? Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 9:57
  • @user253751 That sounds like it could be its own question, either here or on aviation.stackexchange.com (I'm not sure that's the right limit, though, since digits are used as well as letters).
    – IMSoP
    Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 13:52
  • @user253751 36x36-10x10 = 1196. (26 letters + 10 digits = 36, minus the digits-only combinations)
    – Doc
    Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 1:11
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If a good one is taken, you've gotta make choices. Something like JT might have made sense, but that's taken by Lion Air. JS? North Korea's airline Air Koryo. JL? Japan Airlines.

As a result:

  • Jetstar - JQ
  • Jetstar Asia - 3K
  • Jetstar Japan - GK
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When all the matching letters are taken, you have to pick something else. They just didn't have any nicer choices left.

Somer newer airlines have codes like S6 or 4E - picking through the remainders.

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